Kara Walker’s New Show Was a Sensation Before It Even Opened


Julia Felsenthal in Vogue:

Enter the New York City art gallery Sikkema Jenkins & Co. sometime between today and October 14, and you will encounter a world just as chaotic and dark and discombobulating as the one in which we live. That Chelsea space is where the Brooklyn artist Kara Walker—she of the massive and massively celebrated 2014 Domino Sugar factory installation—has mounted her latest work.

Walker’s subject matter is, and always has been, racism and misogyny and the way that America’s original sin of slavery continues to rot our country from the inside out. Her work, long before we elected a black president, long before we elected a white president single-mindedly intent on erasing the legacy of our black president, has served as an active, pointed rebuke to notions of a post-racial United States. First there were her silhouetted cutouts that packaged the nightmarish violence of everyday antebellum life in a jaunty, reductive, old-timey visual vernacular. That work, cunning and disturbing, won Walker a MacArthur “Genius” grant at the tender age of 27. Her installation several years ago at Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar factory, A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, took things one step further. Her gigantic, glowing-white, Aunt Jemima-esque sugar sphinx, surrounded by shoe-polish brown sugar worker boys, relocated the slave trade to its natural terminus: a plant in the most metropolitan of northern cities, where supply met demand, where the fruits of slave labor were processed for the sweet-toothed (though not particularly sweet-hearted) American people.

More here.